Opposites DO Attract: Coffee Naps, The Bulletproof Power Nap, Explained

coffee naps
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The first time I ever heard about coffee napping was way back when I launched the original design of the “caffeine: my drug of choice” t-shirt you may now recognize.  We sold it online in the earliest days of the internet.

My colleagues and I used to talk about coffee naps a lot, so it’s amazing how so many people still haven’t heard of them today.  A lot has happened since then, but coffee naps are still an awesome, underappreciated way to get a midday energy boost.

I don’t coffee nap often because I rarely nap, period, but when I do?  I coffee nap!

They’re best for when you’re traveling or jet lagged for a quick burst of rejuvenation.

 

Coffee Naps 101

Yep, you read that right: two of the most Bulletproof things, sleep and coffee go hand in hand to boost your performance when you use them together correctly.

Drinking a cup of coffee followed by a 20-minute rest can give you an effective siesta that fuels your afternoon.  Some call it a coffee nap; we call it a Bulletproof Power Nap 🙂

Sound crazy or even counter-intuitive? After all, we drink caffeine for alertness, not to sleep. Here’s how it works and the science behind it.

 

Coffee Naps: Powered By Science 

A quick coffee nap is an incredible way to boost energy and productivity during your day because of what goes on in your brain as it’s happening.

When you drink caffeine, it passes to your small intestine and gets absorbed into your bloodstream. It then kickstarts your brain chemistry by blocking receptors normally filled by similar energy transferring molecules of Adenosine, a chemical compound in your brain known for causing drowsiness.

Adenosine makes you feel sleepy by slowing down your brain’s nerve cell activity; so when caffeine binds to your receptors instead of Adenosine, the reverse happens…

When caffeine takes Adenosine’s place in the receptors, it has the opposite effect; the nerve cells speed up giving us that jolt of caffeine energy and focus.[1]

 

So, what does any of that have to do with a 20-minute power nap?

The brilliance of the coffee nap is that sleep naturally clears Adenosine from your brain!

From the moment you drink your coffee to the moment you metabolize it is about 20 minutes of pure opportunity to not only rest, but to open up those Adenosine receptors to the caffeine you just imbibed.[2]

It’s like rolling out a welcome mat just for your coffee.  What could be better?

 

What Kind of Nap Works?  What If I’m Not Good At Napping?

You don’t have to fall into a deep sleep for a coffee nap to work. Half-sleep or “nonsleep dozing” has proven to be just as effective.[3]

It’s important not to sleep any longer than 20 minutes as you can fall into sleep inertia, which is harder to wake from.  You also need to be awake when that caffeine reaches your brain.[4]

 

Why Do Coffee Naps Work So Well?

Scientists have directly observed the behavioral and cognitive effectiveness of the coffee nap and say that it’s more productive than coffee or naps on their own[5-7].

In several UK studies, researchers found that when subjects took a 15 minute coffee nap, they scored higher on a driving simulator test.

In Japan, scientists founds their subjects scored higher on memory tests after coffee naps.  Subjects also claimed they felt less tired.[5, 6, 7]

The coffee nap formula is pretty straightforward. Find a quite corner at work or home, and give it a try.

Maybe even explain it to your boss, so they know you’re upgrading your productivity.  Comment below with your results and any other napping hacks you’ve discovered!

 

References:

Click to read the complete list of references.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164566 Caffeine and Adenosine.
  2. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep Why Do We Sleep, Anyway, Harvard Medical School.
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9401427 Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap.
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12531174 Sleep Inertia.
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9401427 Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap.
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8936399 Counteracting driver sleepiness: effects of napping, caffeine, and placebo.
  7. http://www.clinph-journal.com/article/S1388-2457(03)00255-4/abstract The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime naps.
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By Dave Asprey

  • Joseph

    Please do not fabricate/mislead readers. I checked over reference #3 about meditation and adenosine and nowhere in that reference was adenosine mentioned. Meditation certainly lowers the cortisol stress hormone, not adenosine.

  • Daliah
  • Gregory

    Great article! I had heard about coffee naps, but I didn´t know exactly how they worked. Going to try this weekend in place of my regular nap. My naps hacks include a sleep mask and the couch. No bed, otherwise I fall into deep sleep.

  • David Garrett

    I was having coffee naps before i knew that the term was coined as such. I was toying with the afternoon nap after lunch, then moved it to after my afternoon coffee. The idea was just to clear my mind and then get on the my afternoon. I found that the effect was compounded greatly, far better then a nap or a coffee by themselves.

    I have actually fallen asleep for 45mins and its horrible, so be sure to set an alarm for 30mins and try get your body to wake up naturally after 20-25 – you’ll feel so much better then better jolted awake.

    When i wake, i usually go splash some water on my face, have a few glasses of water, then i’m ready to attack the afternoon. The only hard part is that now if i dont have a afternoon nap i can get very tired quickly in the evening, which isnt such a bad thing either.

    On a side note, I’m a very new Bulletproof’er, and am very excited about trying a Bulletproof power nap! Thanks for all your work and look forward to what my biohacking future holds.

  • Van

    Wow, I’ve never thought of to put the two concepts together! However, I’ve also never thought of putting ramen and burgers together and that was a huge hit at last week’s Sunday fun day. Maybe this week I’ll make a round of vietnamese coffee, binge watch MadMen until I fall asleep, wake up 20 minutes later, and see how I feel. I’m so curious to see if it really works!

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  • Brian Harrison

    Now that you mention it Dave, I think I had my first coffee nap completely by chance a couple of years ago. In the middle of a particularly difficult commute, I took the off ramp at a highway rest stop to recharge. After grabbing a coffee at the drive through, I found a spot to park and rest for a few minutes instead of getting back on the road right away. I chugged the coffee, but I was so exhausted, I reclined my seat and closed my eyes. Waking up about 20 minutes later, I was raring to go. The rest of my drive was terrific. Figured that was exactly what a power nap was meant to be, or they gave me a decaf by mistake. Thanks for doing the research…maybe next time I’ll arrange my coffee nap on purpose.

  • Hildaj

    I’m 72 and have been doing that for years. Thanks for explaining – I couldn’t understand why I wanted to nap after coffee.

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  • Carolyn Schweitzer

    Been doing this for a while. I figure it’ll take a bit for the caffeine to get into my system, so I lie down for a little rest and let the coffee let me know when it’s time to get up. Works great!

  • Suzanne Roberts

    There is a free app call Pzizz which can help with power napping, been using it for over 10 years and it can be set for 20 min naps so you can be sure of just keeping to the optimal time. My experience of using it every day (not within 5 hours of bedtime) is that I don’t need as much sleep overnight.

  • Don McCracken

    I usually sip my coffee, so it can take 20-30 minutes to finish a cup. But as the article reads, because “From the moment you drink your coffee to the moment you metabolize it is about 20 minutes”, it seems like I have to chug it down quickly for the coffee nap to work. What’s the scoop?

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  • Caitlyn

    I did this today except i didn’t take a power nap. I slept for 4 hours… but i felt really good afterwards. My sleep tonight will suffer though, i’ll probably be up til the morning

  • They must not be drinking the coffee I make. In about 5 mins, I’m thinking its important to post a comment on old videos on YouTube. In 8 mins, I’ve solved all the worlds problems. In 10 mins, I’ve came up with about 3 ideas for shit to do. At 11mins, I have already become bored with those ideas. At 15 mins, the diuretic effects produce a 16 Co uric turd. At 20 mins, the high has warn off, and I hate my life.

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  • Lacey Watson Abercrombie

    Will this work with tea? Thanks!

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  • Jonathan Bell

    A friend of mine at college introduced me to this method! He explained how you should drink coffee right before a power nap, and it shouldn’t be longer than 25 minutes MAX, or you’ll go into REM sleep. It was a real life-saver on days of intense study. 🙂

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